Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear—but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. (1 Pet. 3:3-4)
For the longest time, I thought having a quiet and gentle spirit meant being a quiet person. And despite the shyness of my childhood, once I finally got loud, I got real loud. In direct response, I prayed for gentleness and for quietness and for words that would matter.
And yet, I kept being the girl who ranted, who cried out over injustice, who always had a sassy comeback (I have been compared to Disgust in Inside Out), and I didn’t really get any quieter—at least not on the outside.
After all, I was a part of a generation of women who were reclaiming feminism for Jesus. We shouted from the rooftops, Don’t you know? Women were made in God’s image, too. They are called and equipped and gifted and prepared. We are so much more than quiet and gentle, we said. We are pressing into who God has called us to be—truth-tellers and Spirit-seekers and fiercely faithful.
Then, I prayed that God would give me a heart for the hood. I walked into a community center, I saw pictures drawn by kids who would just like their neighborhood to feel stable, and my heart shattered into approximately a million pieces. I hopped on a bus back to Georgetown (the white privilege mecca of D.C.) and wrote it down, God, give me a heart for these kids. Give me a deep love for this neighborhood.
Whoops. Won’t He do it?
See, the whole time God was stoking those fires of truth-telling and proclamation, he was also gently probing out the quiet and gentle parts of me. He was softening my rough edges and making me, well, more like Jesus.
A quiet and gentle spirit is not about answering some verse in 1 Peter all about being the perfect woman. (I mean, heck, I almost wore my hair in a braid today.) Instead, it is about being like Jesus. Cause Jesus? When kids came to Him, He scooped them up and told them they were loved and known. When He saw those on the margins, He sought them out, called them away, and whispered to them that they were known, loved, healed and saved.
And my heart? I can feel it, even now, stretching and turning over and shifting to be just a little bit more like Jesus. When I see a broken kid, my response isn’t to rail against broken systems (at least not as often as it used to be.) Instead, it’s to listen, to look for the layers, to hug, to pep talk, and to go home and cry it out with those friends who bear such heavy burdens in tandem.
This new gentleness is terrifying. Cynicism and anger are easier, more comfortable, more natural. The sharp words used to come quick, the defense mechanisms used to be much more stable. And yet, in that new quietness, God is so quick to speak. Or maybe He was quick to speak the whole time, and I’ve finally calmed down enough to listen.
Calmed down may be a generous term. After all, the fiery spirit and the commitment to spitting truth are certainly still there, and it’s a good thing too, because if they disappeared, I’d be losing something at my core. But, as my heart continues to be cracked wide open, I’ve learned to hold space for the big, hard, scary things that can’t be quickly reduced to a comeback or a rant. Sometimes, you just need a whisper and the knowledge that the carrying of this burden may take a while.
This piece originally appeared on An Inconvenience Rightly Considered.